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Footbridge to Temple Mount reopened amid safety concerns

JTA

December 14, 2011 | 10:59 am

A woman stands near the Mughrabi Bridge that leads from the Western Wall to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City on Dec. 14. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

A woman stands near the Mughrabi Bridge that leads from the Western Wall to the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City on Dec. 14. Photo by REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

The Mughrabi Bridge, which allows pedestrians to walk to the Temple Mount, was reopened 48 hours after it was closed due to safety concerns.

The bridge was reopened Wednesday, with a fire truck stationed nearby as a safety precaution. The Jerusalem city engineer last week threatened to order the immediate closure of the bridge, calling it a fire hazard that is in danger of collapsing. If the bridge does catch fire, it could quickly spread to the Temple Mount, the municipality has warned.

Knesset members Uri Ariel and Ariel Eldad of the National Union Party entered the Temple Mount Wednesday through the newly reopened bridge, calling for the bridge to be rebuilt in order to allow non-Muslims to visit the site. 

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inner Cabinet decided to delay razing the bridge and to renovate instead.

“The government’s helplessness in dealing with this hazardous and dilapidated nuisance at the heart of the Western Wall and entrance to Temple Mount is regrettable,” the municipality said in a statement following the decision. The statement called on the government to build a “permanent and safe walkway in place of the old one.”

On Monday, Jewish activists seized several buildings near the border with Jordan to protest its interference in Temple Mount affairs. Israel and Jordan have been involved in talks to replace the temporary wooden bridge, which was erected in 2004 to replace a damaged stone walkway.

Jordan has called on Israel to refrain from destroying the bridge, saying it will change the character of the holy site. 

Long resented by Muslims, the bridge links the Western Wall to the Temple Mount and had allowed tourists to visit the latter’s Al Aksa and Dome of the Rock mosques.

The structure was to have been demolished last month to make way for a new, permanent walkway, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu postponed the project in a move widely seen as designed to avoid stirring anti-Israel passions in Arab states rocked by political turmoil.

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